San Diego is home to pleasant year-round weather, adorable sea lions, and over 70 miles of beaches. But if you’re traveling alone, you might be wondering—is San Diego safe?
Overall, San Diego is safe, with a crime rate lower than the national average.
Like any city, certain districts are safer than others. So, following basic safety practices is vital to have the safest experience possible.
I’ve spent over four months exploring San Diego as a solo female and will share a combination of data-backed safety information and my personal takeaways.
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First Things First: A Disclaimer
Popular reading: 14 Tips for Discovering San Diego Sea Lions & Seals
I’ve spent over four months living in and wandering around San Diego as a solo female.
I’m currently writing this article from a cute cafe in Liberty Station. Overall, I’ve had a positive experience safety-wise here.
But keep in mind that the information I share, with the exception of statistics from linked sources, is my personal opinion based on my encounters.
Everyone has unique experiences that shape their perception of any given destination.
So, take what you want from this article and leave the rest. And above all, never let your guard down just because I or anyone else tells you that a destination is relatively safe.
Trusting your gut and following basic safety practices are vital to improving your security in any destination.
Safety in San Diego: What the Statistics Say
According to Neighborhood Scout, San Diego has a crime index of 17 out of 100.
The higher the number, the safer the city. So, that places San Diego at 17% safer than other cities in the United States.
Of the crime classifications that make up these numbers, there are around 26,700 property crimes and about 5,470 violent crimes.
To put that into perspective, the San Diego violent crime rate is 3.96 per 1,000 residents. In contrast, California has a rate of 4.4 per 1,000 residents, and the U.S. national median is 4.0 per 1,000 residents.
While San Diego has relatively low crime rates, I’d be remiss not to mention that the violent crime rate in San Diego increased 8% from 2020 to 2021. Whether that had to do with the COVID-19 pandemic or something else is up for debate.
But the bottom line is that when assessing these numbers, it’s important to remember that crime rates constantly fluctuate.
So, if you’re concerned about safety before you travel, you can check the most up-to-date San Diego crime rate data on Neighborhood Scout.
Visiting San Diego as a Solo Female
I’ve spent most of my time in San Diego exploring by myself as a solo female traveler. I don’t have a vehicle, so I rely on a combination of public transportation and walking to get around.
Overall, I feel safe in San Diego as a solo female.
But there are undoubtedly uncomfortable times, particularly when taking and waiting for public transportation.
I’ll talk more about safety on public transportation shortly. But for now, from the solo female perspective, there tends to be a greater number of characters you’d rather not encounter around public transportation stops.
Especially the trolley stops in downtown.
Personally, I don’t feel safe taking public transportation in San Diego at night by myself. Uber is ultra expensive here. But to me, it’s worth it.
Aside from public transportation, if you stick to the neighborhoods I’ll be talking about next and use common sense, you can expect to have a positive experience exploring San Diego as a solo female.
What Parts of San Diego Are the Safest?
San Diego is the eighth most populous city in the United States. That means there are many districts to explore, several of which are very safe.
So, if you’re on the hunt for safe neighborhoods in San Diego, below are the best options:
- La Jolla
- Torrey Hills
- Del Mar Mesa
- Carmel Valley
You’ll notice a theme with these neighborhoods if you look at a map—they’re all north of downtown San Diego. That matches what most San Diego locals will tell you; the farther north you go, the safer you’ll be.
So, Torrey Pines, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside are all cute and safe beach areas north of San Diego.
That said, I spent a couple of months living in Chula Vista, just four trolley stops from the Mexican border. I had a very positive experience and enjoyed the (relatively) cheaper cost of living compared to central and northern San Diego.
Safest Areas in Downtown San Diego
There isn’t a single safest area in downtown San Diego. And in most cases, districts that are relatively safe during the day (such as Little Italy and Gaslamp) aren’t safe in the wee hours of the morning.
Then again, what downtown area in any city is truly safe at 2:00 am?
So, keeping that in mind, the safest areas in downtown San Diego include:
- Seaport Village
- North Harbor Drive (boardwalk along the water)
- Convention Center
- Little Italy
Neighborhoods to Avoid in San Diego
When asking the question, “Is San Diego safe?” it’s equally important to know the areas you should steer clear of. Or, at the very least, have your guard up when you’re in them.
Some of the highest crime areas in San Diego include:
- University Avenue
- Imperial Avenue
- Lincoln Park
- National City
East Village is an area in downtown San Diego with a high homeless population. While this area isn’t inherently dangerous because of that, it can be uncomfortable to pass through, particularly for solo females (drunk men and people with their pants down are common situations).
From a personal perspective, I’m not a fan of Old Town. It’s safe enough during the day (I’ve been several times), but I always feel I have to have my guard up higher there than in many other parts of San Diego.
Public Transportation Safety in San Diego
San Diego’s public transportation is efficient and timely. The trolley and buses are also well maintained and clean, given the circumstances.
But I’ve encountered many drunk, drugged, and angry people during my trolley and bus rides. I’ve held my breath on a few occasions. I haven’t let it stop me from exploring San Diego, though, knowing other people could come to the rescue if the situation requires it (and one time it did).
Safety on the Trolley
Where do I begin? The trolley is an excellent way to get around San Diego.
But paying for the trolley is basically on the honor system—I’ve heard that they sometimes check boarding passes, but I’ve never been on a trolley where that’s happened.
The result is that there are many passengers on the trolley who otherwise might not be able to or willing to ride it as much as they do. Unfortunately, I’ve found this equates to some people taking the trolley while on drugs, drunk, and/or drinking openly onboard.
Does that make the trolley dangerous?
It depends on who gets on and how far gone they are. At the very least, it’s an unpleasant experience.
Safety on the Bus
While I prefer taking the trolley over the bus in San Diego for its efficiency, I feel safer on buses than on the trolley.
Much of this is because the driver can keep tabs on passengers, pulling over if anything gets out of hand.
But I also believe I’ve had more positive experiences on San Diego’s buses because you have to scan your boarding pass when getting on the bus. No boarding pass, no ride.
So, this weeds out the unpaying passengers who ride the trolley as a pastime rather than as a means to get somewhere.
Is San Diego Safe at Night?
If you stay within the safest neighborhoods in San Diego that I listed earlier, San Diego is pretty safe at night.
But it also depends on what “night” means to you. Are we talking 10:00 pm or 3:00 am?
If a street is desolate and poorly lit, don’t walk down it. If you want to pull out your new Mac and work on a park bench, find a cafe instead.
Beach Safety in San Diego
Rip currents are common in San Diego, and data shows that about 80% of all lifeguard rescues are because of them.
Many popular San Diego beaches have lifeguards on duty during the day. In fact, if you go to La Jolla Shores Beach, it’s common to hear the lifeguard shouting orders to swimmers and surfers in the water.
It’s also hard to spend time near the beach without seeing a San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard truck racing by, its lights on and siren blasting.
So, use common sense if you decide to take a dip into the Pacific Ocean. Are there a lot of people swimming? Is there a lifeguard nearby?
If so, it’s likely a safe time and place to swim.
A Note on Hurricanes
Hurricanes are extremely rare in San Diego, much of which is because the water is so cold. One of the most notable hurricanes hit San Diego in 1858, leaving wind damage.
I happened to be in San Diego in September 2022 when Hurricane Kay struck the Mexican coast, and there was chatter about it potentially coming up to San Diego.
That didn’t happen, but we did have rain. It was the first time I had ever seen puddles in San Diego!
Earthquake Safety in San Diego
It’s no secret that San Diego sits on a portion of the San Andreas fault network. And because of this, scientists estimate that there’s at least a 60% chance of an earthquake of 6.7-magnitude or greater at any given time.
Personally, I don’t wander around San Diego worried about earthquakes. And I think most locals would agree.
But it’s undeniable that large and small earthquakes alike have and will happen here.
So, if you want to go above and beyond to prepare for an earthquake, notice your surroundings when you’re inside buildings.
Is there a sturdy desk you can hide under? Where’s the nearest exit, and where are the building’s beams along the walls?
Fire Safety in San Diego
I was in San Diego in 2020 when a wildfire encroached on the city. It was so close that the sky filled with smoke, and health experts urged people to keep their windows closed and not exercise outside.
The peak wildfire season in California is from July to October.
But the reality is that San Diego has a coastal desert climate, so there’s always a chance of fires.
How To Stay Safe in San Diego
Below are some basic safety precautions to take in San Diego. As you’ll see, there’s nothing unique about them—it’s wise to practice these tips regardless of where you travel.
- Take a taxi at night
- Don’t walk around showcasing expensive electronics
- Never carry around all your credit cards and cash
- Ask locals for advice
- Don’t leave an opened drink unattended
- If you’re going to get inebriated, do so with a trustworthy sober companion
Finally, trust your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
The Bottom Line: Is San Diego Safe Right Now?
San Diego is easily my favorite city in the U.S. It’s full of unique districts, culture, and sea lions that will entertain you for hours.
There isn’t a single safest area in San Diego, allowing visitors and new residents alike the opportunity to explore many parts.
If you have questions about safety in San Diego, leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to help.
I’d also love to hear about your takeaways after you visit San Diego. Everyone’s experience is unique, so I know your feedback will help future readers.